Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scheduling strategies

Did you know that your class schedule can play a big role in your success in your anatomy and physiology course?  Not a lot of students realize that you need a good scheduling strategy to maximize your learning in A&P.

Here are some strategies that many students have found useful:
  • Avoid short classes.  OK, you may not have a choice in this . . . but if you do, then avoid classes that meet for 50-minute sessions.  More and more schools are scheduling A&P "lecture" classes for longer class periods, meeting twice a week (rather than three times a week).  Why?

    • Because most students feel that they "just get into it" and the class is over. 

    • Partly, 50-minute classes are too short because more faculty are incorporating new techniques in "active learning" and other methods to enhance the classroom experience of students.  Such techniques, when used effectively, simply do not fit well into a short class period. 

    • Another reason is that when professors try to build up to the higher-level concepts, they cannot accomplish it within a short time frame . . . and waiting until the next class period will lose the threads needing to be pulled together.  You'll understand the lecture/discussion better in longer class periods.

  • Avoid "stacking" your classes all on two or three days.  A lot of students believe that they are being efficient when they try to stack their entire full-time course load into 2 or 3 days of the week . . . M/W/F only or T/Th only, for example.  That may sound like a good idea, but it's usually not.  Why? 

    • First, your brain (and your butt) may not be able to handle hour upon hour of classroom activities effectively.  It is not efficient if you cannot take in all that new learning all in one long session.  Not only might your learning suffer, but you'll begin to dread coming to school . . . and eventually you'll "turn off" your motivation to be successful in learning. 

    • Besides giving your brain (and butt) a rest, spreading out your class days allows you to build in breaks in your day that allow other kinds of learning activities.  So many of my students struggle to get things done on campus that they need to do . . . because they forgot to build in some "on campus time" for themselves.  For example:

      • Group study time
      • Post-lecture and post-lab student gatherings to review content
      • Lab practice (going over models, etc, in the open lab or learning center)
      • Tutoring in the learning center
      • Library work
      • Office visits with professors and advisors
      • Campus workshops (for example, student success workshops)
      • Eating right
      • Campus life (just hanging out and having fun . . . an important part of college)

  • Find the right instructor.  If you have a choice, you may want to do some research so you can pick the instructor that is the best fit for your learning style.  However, this can be very tricky.  How do you really know what an instructor is like?

    • Never go on word of just one or two students, because they may be at one or the other extreme in their perspective.  Get a LOT of input if you can. 

    • And I suggest that you stay away from those online rating sites . . . they often preferentially attract the extremes, as well. 

    • The best advice is to interview each instructor.  Ask them what approach they take, how they address your individual learning style, what their strengths and weaknesses are.  You wouldn't choose a contractor or employee without talking to them first and getting references . . .so why treat your education any differently?
Of course, there will be limitations in your choices . . . but when given a choice, it's best to choose wisely.